Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced a significant change in the approach to constructing the new Dunedin hospital.
It will now be built in two stages, with the outpatient and day surgery building fast-tracked to be finished more than three years earlier than anticipated and the larger inpatient building due to be finished five or six years after that.
David Clark said the announcement comes after 'some months of thinking and planning', and is conditional on the normal Cabinet and budgetary processes being secured.
"The underlying issue is that the existing Dunedin hospital will not last the distance in its current state. There is simply too much damage, too much congestion, too many things to work around and no room to do so.
"Had we done nothing, the existing hospital would have progressively struggled to deliver adequate services, especially in the emergency department and in surgical services. It would also be unreasonable to ask the staff to operate under existing conditions for another decade.
"Sadly, all of this is the direct and predictable result of years of procrastination and indecision in earlier times.
"The current hospital simply does not have adequate day surgery capacity and has no room to build more. The Southern DHB and the Southern Partnership Group have considered every conceivable option to address this. The best way forward is to put a manageable chunk of the new hospital on a much faster track.
"As soon as we have new day surgery capacity up and running, we will be able to repurpose that space within the existing hospital to best serve the needs of patients and staff. That will mean the existing hospital will be much more functional for the last five or six years of its life."
The new plan is to open the smaller of the two buildings, the day surgery and outpatient building, in two stages; November 2023 and November 2024. Importantly, day surgery will be able to start in the new facility in November 2023. Some contingency times have been built into the plans but these dates are nonetheless dependent on no major obstacles such as unpredicted ground conditions.
"The people of the South have been waiting too long for modern hospital facilities – this plan means they can expect to have modern outpatient and day surgery facilities within five years," David Clark said.
(With Inputs from New Zealand Government Press Release)